Army to open new supply point in Lithuania
By MICHAEL S. DARNELL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 14, 2015
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — U.S. Army Europe is set to open a new depot in the Baltics later this month in a move that is expected to shorten supply chains and speed the flow of important military equipment to soldiers in the field.
The new Supply Support Activity, or SSA, is part of U.S. Army Europe’s efforts to streamline force rotations from the United States.
Until now, rotational units from the U.S. exercising with allies in eastern Europe have had to wait for supplies to be packaged and shipped — often via civilian transport — from elsewhere in Europe, or even the States. That has led to unnecessary downtime, officials said.
When the supply point at Marijampole, Lithuania, is opened later this month, forward-deployed rotational units will have a dedicated, centralized supply point closer to their location. First Lt. Elijah Ellis, the officer in charge of the supply distribution attachment, 3rd Brigade Support Battalion, said everything from copier paper to Abrams tank parts will be stocked there.
“If a vehicle goes down in one of those countries and they order that part, it’s very possible we’ll already have it on hand,” he said. “We’ll be able to throw it on one of our trucks driven by one of our soldiers and drive it directly to them.”
Lt. Col. William Arnold, commander of the 3rd Brigade Support Battalion, said this should cut average downtime by as much as 15 days.
Combined with the European Activity Set — the pre-positioned fleet of heavy equipment and vehicles rotational forces already use — the new supply activity will make forward-deployed units less reliant on troops in the rear.
“This allows us the ability to draw an SSA set to coincide with the equipment set that’s being given to us so that we’re self-sufficient, self-operating and we’re not burdening the other SSAs,” Arnold said.
Each rotational force will take the supplies back to Germany before returning to the U.S., and the next incoming unit will assemble the customized supply set it will need for its deployment.
Currently, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Stewart, Ga., is serving as USAREUR’s rotational force. That unit is dispersed throughout the Baltic region as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a continuing series of exercises NATO introduced to reassure allies in eastern Europe concerned about Russia’s intentions since its intervention in Ukraine last year.
“It’s honestly the first time, especially in the Baltic states, for something like this,” Ellis said. “So we’re the guinea pigs, and we’re excited to see how it works out for us.”
Approximately 750 U.S. Army and military vehicles and equipment, including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery pieces and helicopters from the 3rd Infantry Division, arrived in Riga, Latvia, Mar. 9, 2015, to support Operation Atlantic Resolve and planned Army-Europe multinational training exercises in the region. A new supply point opening in Lithuania in October 2015 will cut down on the amount of supplies being brought from the US to support rotational forces in Europe.
WARREN W. WRIGHT JR/U.S. ARMY